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Wealth of unique spiecies

The nature on Kalimantan knows an exotic beauty, but unfortunately the special environment hides most of the rare animals and plants. The nature reserves do hardly have any facilities, and an expedition to the hinterlands demands a good organisation and the intent to spend a number of days in the jungle. Over there is seems that the leech (Haemadipsa zeylanica) is the only animal available. At that's a pretty tough one as well.
Many animals live high above the ground, almost invisible in between the dense canape. Brightly colored birds fly along and over the rivers. The rivers hold many spiecies of fish. In the downstream of the Mahakam, near the lake district, there are some groups of freshwater dolphins.

Rare nose apes

A strange animal, which can only be found on Borneo, lives in the mangrove-flood forests. The nose of the male nose-ape (Nasalis larvatus) can be as long as 15 cm. This extra-large nose serves as attractiveness to get a female (with a small nose). The nose ape likes to swim, this in contrary with othre primates. When in danger, but sometimes also just for fun, the apes jump in the fresh water from a reasonable height.

Picture: Orang Hutan

Nose apes have a red back and almost white belly; their face and butt are light brown. Nose apes are herbivores, they can be watched best at dawn and dusk, when they are looking for water between the mangrove trees. Tanjung Puting and the river islands near Banjarmasin are the most favorable places.

Threathened forest people

The orang-hutan, Indonesian for 'forest person'still exsists on Sumatera and Borneo, but they are very rare. 1000 years ago there were more orang-hutans than people on Borneo; about 500,000. Around the 1960's where were no more than a few thousand left on the entire world. Now deforestation destroys the natural habitat of the orang-hutan, the existance of the animal is very precarious.
Besides that - against all laws - mother apes are still killed to sell the youngsters. The Indonesian government has a special emergency shelter in Kalteng where the young animals learn to adapt themselves to the jungle again.
For a orang-hutan, environment is very important. As the biggest fruit-eater on the planet, an adult needs about 500 hectares to fullfill it's needs. The fruit trees in the rainforest are scattered over great distances, reason why the animals do not live in groups: this would exhaust the trees at once. The animals add bark, flowers, some insects and honey to their daily meal. Becauce of their enormous weight - males can weigh upto 80 kg - orang-hutans usually don't walk more than 400 meters a day.

Other inhabitants

However nose apes and orang-hutans are usually invisible, other apes are good to look at, or in any case to hear. Male and female gibbons make duets and normal makakes search the river banks for a nice lobster. The slow lori lives in the trees and is a night animal. Their eyes are huge in comparison to their body. Another small ape can turn it's head 180, which is usefull during hunting.
The armadillo (Manis javanica) is describes as a 'small armed dinosaur'. This anteater breaks open ant-structures with his paws and licks around for his meal. To store some lunch, the animal puts some ants between his scales, which he can eat when it's bathing. The ants will float around him, so they can be sucked up easily.

Birding in Kalimantan

Armed with binoculairs and the classical Birds of Borneo of Bertram E. Smythies, a bird-watcher can identify about 600 different birds in Kalimantan. Birds are important in the faith of sings of the Dayak. Even now the hunting can be postponed, because a bird flew in the 'wrong' direction. The rhinoceros-bird has a prominent role in the mythology of the Dayak. It's heavy wings create a noise which most looks like that of a steam engine of a train.
Nine spiecies can be recognised instantly because of the nice horn which is on top of the beak. The horn of the Rhinoplax vigil, the horn is solid and extraordinary fancy. The ivory of the birds was worth trice as much as that of the elephant, and even now it;s used among the Dayak to create nice earrings.

Picture: Rafflesia

The female rhinoceros-bird breeds her eggs in a nest in a hollow tree. The entrance is closed with a gum-like substance up by the male partner, only a small hole is left for the beaks. They are fed this way until the chicks can fly. When her partner died, his tasks are taken by another male; an extraordinary thing in the animal world.
The most bird of the island is undoubtly the Argus feasant ( Argusianus grayi). This bird is very shy and that's why there is not much know about it's habits. The rear feathers are decorated with hundreds of shining 'eyes' and are used for traditional Dayak costumes.
The salangan Collocalia sp.) is very important from economical point of view. The sticky saliva which they use to build their nests, is also the base for Chinese soup. This gelatin does not have much taste, but is said to have a good influence on your potency. To get a nest like this, high against the walls of deep limestone caves, is kind of dangerous.

Wealthy green carpet

Borneo has a wealthy green flora. Inside an area of 10 hectares, 780 different spiecies of trees were counted. For a comparison, England only has 35 different trees.
Characteristics for the coastal areas are mangrove forests, palms and inferious deciduous forest. Futher inland, especially in Kalsel and Kalbar, are the lower hills and alluvial plains. Deeper in the inlands the tropical rainforest starts, which gets more dense when you get on higher altitudes. Here the Dipterocarpacea rules, which formes a dense canape on twenty to fifty meters above the ground. Occasionally you will find an ironwood or ebony tree. The upah produces a deathly poison. Gigantic tapang-trees, with bright white, bald stems, rise high above the average canape with their 70 meters. Epiphytes, among them a large number of orchids, decorate many trees.
There are over 11.000 kinds of flowering plants on Borneo, among them the rafflesia ( Rafflesia arnoldii), which has the biggest flower in the world. The fleshy flower can be as wide as one meter and weigh upto eight kilograms. The rafflesia spreads an odour of rotting mead, meant to attract meat-eating flies.
The flora in Borneo's large rainforest, the biggest after the Amazone, produces many expensife products: damar-raisin, rubber, ratten and palm sugar. Borneo also produces a good quality kampher, discovered as raisin inside the rotten heart of the kampher-laurel, Drylobalanops aromatica). Another remarkable odourous product is gaharu or aloe-wood. This originates from the damages Aquilaria malaccensis). A kilogram of gaharu can bring up as much as a couple of hundred dollars.

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